One might find it shocking to hear that such a talent as Oscar de la Renta once needed to pull out the ‘fake it till you make it’ card, but truth be told, he did. In his new book, The Style, Inspiration, and Life of Oscar de la Renta (Assouline), he admits that in 1959, while interviewing for a position with Antonio Castillo at Lanvin—a skilled position for which he clearly wasn’t qualified—he exaggerated his work experience at Balenciaga. Castillo hired him on the spot. To get up to speed, well, let’s let Oscar tell the story: “I bought time by saying I had to go back to Spain and collect my things. Then I went straight out and looked up the biggest advert for a fashion school in the yellow pages. I called up the lady and asked if she could teach me everything she knew in the space of two weeks.”
From there, Oscar came to New York in 1963. At a dinner on his very first night in the city, he was strategically placed (thanks to Count Lanfranco Rasponi) next to Elizabeth Arden, whom Rasponi knew was on the hunt for a new designer. As it turns out, Castillo had left Arden to start his own collection—something that angered Arden. So Oscar played up the fact that he worked as Castillo’s assistant, and Arden, who couldn’t resist a little payback, bit, hiring him the following morning. Five decades later, and Oscar de la Renta has designed for major film stars, royalty, politicians, and some of the most important ladies who ever lunched.
Though he considers himself to have “the memory of a mosquito,” and not one to look back—with nary an archive to speak of—this book resolves all of that. It is full of wonderful anecdotes and stunning photographs that document Oscar de la Renta’s enduring legacy. “What matters above all are the people I love and to try to have a life that is well-lived. Every day I wake and see the sunrise, I look up and say, ‘God, thank you.’” The Style, Inspiration, and Life of Oscar de la Renta, published by Assouline, $125, assouline.com